Life Aquatic: Stora Hotellet Umeå by Stylt Trampoli

Snapshot: Whimsical, darkly fantastic, and firmly tongue in cheek, the Stora Hotellet Umeå could be the product of a design collaboration between Wes Anderson, Roald Dahl, and Edward Gorey. The real masterminds behind the mysteriously designed establishment are Stylt Trampoli, the rogue Swedish design agency use textured materials and old world patterns to manipulate the mind.

The hundred years of history behind the Stora Hotellet Umeå, or Grand Hotel Umeå, certainly read like a Wes Anderson screenplay. Peopled with salty seafarers and Europe's cultural elite, these disparate characters were thrown together in an unlikely part of the world, in an overtly majestic setting, wherein (we must assume) genteel debauchery and high minded hilarity must have ensued. Over the years, and after numerous short sighted renovations, the glitter dulled and the glamor soured, leaving the Hotel Umeå in a less than Grand condition.  Hoping to reignite the passionate past, Stylt Trampoli undertook a fearlessly nostalgic renovation, and created a bold, exotic, and fantastic little world behind the soaring stone walls on the Bothnian Bay.

Stylt Trampoli found their inspiration in the historical contrast between the "foul-mouthed seamen and tea-sipping ladies" that co-existed at the hotel.  Unambiguous nautical motifs abound throughout the interior, amidst a sea of plush velvet, soft leather, and polished wood. The fabulously rich materiality speaks to refined luxury, but the appearance of ships rigging, sailors clothing, seashells, and the ever present creatures of the deep trolling the walls sustains a quirky imbalance, an unexpected fairytale quality that resonates.

The centerpiece of the hotel is the main staircase. In a dreamlike mashup of textures and volumes, a chaotic patchwork of driftwood and broken furniture lines the underbelly of the curving stairwell, through which a three story chandelier of rope and massively outsized plexiglass crystals hangs glittering amongst the apparent wreckage. Sea foam grey and green dominate the color scheme, but are applied in a flat monochromatic tone, lending an illustrative quality to the scene.

Rooms at the Stora Hotellet Umeå are broken into categories named for sailor's "preoccupations," six romantic themes that speak to the wanderlust in us all - Superstition, Adventure, Mystique, Yearning, Passion, and Freedom.  Accommodations range from compact seaman's bunks - a genteel version of below deck bedding, to massive captain's quarters - a four room suite which occupies the hotel's former banquet hall. In addition to all the modern conveniences, each room features illustrations of sea life from antiquity, some brashly tearing tromp l'loeil holes in the respectable wallpaper.

Amidst the antique scientific and nautical clutter, lush velvet drapery and furniture, warm wood and glittering crystal, a magical experience emerges at the Stora Hotellet Umeå.  Styl Trampoli allows a playful wonder to infiltrate their design without the atmosphere becoming cartoonish, and without sacrificing earnest aesthetic for kitchy gimmick. The hotel is once again worthy of it's moniker, ready for another heady chapter of intrigue and celebration.

Photography courtesy of Stora Hotellet Umeå